Sure, we know eating fast food all the time probably isn’t the best move for our waistline—but there are some less obvious, often overlooked eating habits that could be affecting the scale without you even realizing it.
You may be eating all of the right foods for your body, but have you ever thought about the way you are consuming these foods? Perhaps you’re skipping breakfast, inhaling your lunch, or just saving all of your calories for dinner.
Any of the following bad habits sound like you? In the end, your eating habits probably make more of a difference than you think. Time to reevaluate your routine and get that scale moving in the right direction!
Bad Habit #1: Eating At Your Desk
If your keyboard is basically your place mat, it’s time to change up your lunch game. First of all, sitting all day without so much as a lunchtime walk can wreak havoc on your long-term health. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a relationship between time spent sitting and all-cause mortality (including cardiovascular issues and cancer)—even in people who exercise. Plus, eating while hunched over your desk and focusing on your next deadline can lead to some major indigestion.
Use your lunchtime as an opportunity to get up out of that chair, walk around, and get your blood flowing after you eat—you’ll not only burn calories, but you’ll beat bloat, too, since exercise helps gas pass through the digestive tract more quickly.
Bad Habit #2: Multitasking While You Eat
Whether you’re staring at your phone, computer, or TV screen, munching while doing something else can lead to mindless eating and a lack of appreciation for the food that is in front of you. How many of us have accidentally blown through an entire bag of popcorn or finished our dinner without even realizing it because we were fixated on Netflix?
Next time you catch yourself snacking while staring at the screen, step away and focus on the flavor, temperature, texture, and sound of your food. You’ll eat more slowly, feel much more satisfied, and your stomach, taste buds, and waistline will thank you later.
Bad Habit #3: Not Balancing Your Plate
Ever feel like you need a nap after scarfing down a plate of pasta for lunch? When you go hard on carbs, without any protein or fat, your blood sugar—and energy levels—pay the price. That’s because when your body breaks down carbs your blood sugar soars and then it plummets, so you feel a rush of energy followed by a crash. Protein and fat help to slow down the digestion of carbs, so they keep blood sugar levels more stable, which is good for your satiety and waistline.
Still not a believer? Check this out: A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that overweight participants who ate a diet of about 45-percent carbs (30 percent fat and 25 percent protein) lost more weight over the course of six months than those who ate a diet of 58 percent carbs (30 percent fat and 12 percent protein).
Set yourself up for a satisfying, stable, blood sugar-supporting, and weight-loss friendly meal by including each of the following in every meal or snack: healthy fats (like salmon, avocado, or seeds), complex carbs (like starchy veggies, oats, or brown rice), and quality proteins (like chicken, tuna, or lentils).
Bad Habit #4: Eating While Standing At The Fridge
When we stand there gazing into the refrigerator looking for just the right snack, we often end up picking bits from here and there (hello random cheese slices and cold leftovers) until we’re suddenly full from our nibble rampage.
Decide what you’re really in the mood for or what snack best fits your healthy eating or weight-loss goals before you go anywhere near the fridge. When you plan out your snacks ahead of time, you won’t be left with hands wandering around the fridge in a pinch. Instead, you can focus on really savoring your snack.
Bad Habit #5: Skipping Meals
If you’re trying to lose weight and think skipping breakfast is a good idea because it means you’ll eat fewer calories, think again. Regardless of the intention, a skipped meal welcomes wonky blood sugar, low energy levels, hunger pangs, headaches, and even a sluggish metabolism. (When you don’t consume enough calories, your body essentially thinks you’re starving and slows down your calorie-burn to conserve energy.) A missed meal can also impact your mood and make you “hangry” and irritable, possibly because of your plummeting blood sugar levels.
Your body depends on food for fuel; skipping meals pushes us into an anxiety-driven starvation mode, in which our body thinks there’s no sustenance to be found. To avoid this situation, try to eat breakfast within an hour or two of waking up.
As a general rule, try never to go more than five hours without eating a meal or snack, and make sure that when you do snack, it contains a balance of protein, fat, and carbs.
Bad Habit #6: Eating For The Wrong Reasons
Stressed, bored, or blue? We’ve all been there—and while these emotions often make us want to eat, they don’t mean we’re actually hungry. Reaching for our favorite foods seems like a comforting idea, but when we eat with this sort of motivation, we often overdo it and end up feeling even worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle of emotional eating and guilt.
Next time you feel down, try writing down how you’re feeling or give yourself 20 minutes before diving into your comfort foods. You may realize that you’re not actually hungry, on top of starting the process of working through whatever is on your mind.
Bad Habit #7: Eating Too Fast
Crazy-busy days often lead us to eat on-the-run instead of at the table. But unless you’re planning on entering a hot dog eating contest (not recommended), it’s worth taking the time to slow down and just eat. When we rush through a meal, we often end up eating more than our body needs to feel satisfied.
Fun fact: It often takes about 20 minutes after you start eating for your brain to realize that your stomach is adequately full. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that the faster people reported eating, the higher their body mass indexes (BMIs) tended to be.
So sloooooow down! Take a few deep breaths before you begin your meal and put your fork down in between bites. It sounds silly, but you can even try closing your eyes as you chew to really tune into the textures and flavors of your food. These simple little tactics will not only help you enjoy your meal more, they’ll also keep you from overeating—good news for your pant size.
Bad Habit #8: Eating Because There’s Food In Front Of You
Whether it’s bagels at an early office meeting or dessert that comes with a fixed-price dinner—we often end up eating just because the food is there. And this extra, unplanned eating can be a problem when it means taking in more calories than our body needs.
Stay hydrated throughout the day so that you don’t confuse thirst for hunger in these random moments, and ask yourself, “Do I really feel hungry?” before grabbing that leftover meeting muffin. Just because it’s in front of you, doesn’t mean you need it!